1 Taking Climate Law into Our Hands | West Coast Environmental Law


Taking Climate Law into Our Hands

Law as if climate change were real

If the world’s governments choose to get serious about addressing climate change, decades of work by West Coast and others will give them a variety of legal tools to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But what is lacking is a sense of political or legal urgency – a recognition that they have an obligation to act. That’s where our legal analysis and strategy comes in.

Because there are legal consequences when fossil fuel polluters knowingly destroy our atmosphere, or when professionals ignore climate change in their recommendations. And laws can be structured to create consequences for inadequate climate policies.

Last December, at the UN Climate Summit in Paris, West Coast Environmental Law and the Vanuatu Environmental Law Association released Taking Climate Justice into our own Hands – demonstrating the legal authority of climate-impacted countries to sue global fossil fuel polluters under their own laws. Since then, we have engaged in a national and international discussion on how to ensure that the legal consequences for inaction on climate change are recognized.

Also in Paris, we invited the Canadian and provincial governments to build a science-based national climate change framework based on carbon budgeting, to account for how they will meet national and provincial greenhouse gas reduction targets.

West Coast is on the cutting edge of legal solutions that recognize that climate change is real and is already impacting us. And we intend to remain there.


  • December 2015:  West Coast attended the Paris climate talks.
  • December 2015:  We released Taking Climate Justice into our own Hands, which explains the legal basis for local lawsuits against global fossil fuel polluters.
  • December 2015:  We also released A Carbon Budget for Canada, explaining how a science-based carbon budget system that builds on successful Canadian and international models could form the basis of Canada’s National Framework on Climate Change. 


Our Environmental Decision Making work is funded by the West Coast Environmental Law Research Foundation.